How the Chicago Cubs went from pretenders to contenders

4 of 6

Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Castro took his demotion, then came back to help the team win…

On August 7, Maddon told Castro that he would be benched. Castro is the Cubs’ longest-tenured player, but he was stuck in the worst slump in his career. His defense was not improving as well.

This is a situation that could have hurt both Castro and the Cubs. As bad as he was hitting, he is still a very talented hitter. He will be 26 when the season starts next year, and he will already have one thousand hits (he has 991).

Castro could have moped about the demotion. He could have just complained about it and go into a cocoon.

He did not, and the Cubs became a great team. He put it nicely himself. “I feel great,” he said. “I never put my head down… It means more for me because we got into the playoffs.”

Since being benched, and then becoming a second baseman, Castro finished the season hitting .353/.373/.588, hitting 6 home runs and 23 RBI. The Cubs were 30-17 in the games he played.

Castro’s numbers improved defensively as well. While he may never be a Ryne Sandberg at second, his numbers are positive compared to the negative numbers he had at short. For example, his Rtot at shortstop was -34, but at second it was a +4. His Rdrs at short was -30 while at second it was +2.

Castro’s move to second allowed Addison Russell move back to his natural position. His defense at short helped the defensive unit improve. Castro’s arm is now better used at second. Bryant’s defensive runs saved at third went from -3 to +17. The left side of the infield went from -4 to +38 with Russell there.

Castro showed how much of a team player he was and he went from being a liability to the Cubs to being a strong point.

Next: That Arrieta Dude Is Pretty Good